MENDON, Utah (AP) — A Cache Valley couple is turning heads by training a unique animal that they’ve grown to love like family — water buffalo.
Mary Heers said her love for water buffalo started when she was a young girl.
“In the beginning I think I saw a picture of a Vietnamese boy playing a flute on the back of a water buffalo,” Heers explained. “Since I was in high school I thought it would be wonderful to own one of the majestic animals.”
Heers said in addition to that photo, she had opportunities to try water buffalo milk and ice cream, which sealed the deal for her. When she and her husband Art Heers retired, they started researching where they could get their hands on one of the beasts.
“I found a water buffalo dairy in California where this very nice lady was milking a herd of water buffalo making mozzarella cheese and of course she was very happy to find a good home for the boys,” Mary said.
She and her husband started by purchasing one water buffalo, but now they have three of the animals. All of the creatures are males, which were not needed on the dairy farm.
The water buffaloes reside in a pasture in Mendon, where they have plenty of space to roam around.
Mary explained that when they got their first water buffalo, which is named Andrea, their family became rather attached to him and his friendly demeanor.
“He would come when you called him and (it) was just fun to take a book out to the pasture ... and just lean against him and read,” Mary said.
Eventually, Mary and Art were connected to a trainer that specialized in training camels, reindeer and water buffalo. They decided to train their beloved Andrea to ride and pull a wagon.
“Art really took on the challenge,” Mary said. “He bought a saddle from a neighbor and takes him out for a ride pretty much every day.”
“It’s quite unusual and it’s kind of become sort of a new little fun hobby,” Art Heers said.
The couple has a goal in mind for their precious water buffalo. They hope to get it well trained enough to walk in the Mendon Pioneer Day parade. Right now, Art is working on getting the animal acclimated to other people, kids and cars.
“We really have it in the back of our minds to see if we can get him into our Mendon July 24 parade,” Art said. “In order to do that he has to get used to vehicle and kids and other people without spooking.”
Until then, the couple is enjoying turning heads with their unique animal.
“When anyone sees a water buffalo walking down the sidewalk,” explained Mary, “They’re inclined to run out of the house and take a picture”
And even though these water buffalo may look a little intimidating, Mary and Art assure that their special pets are gentle giants.
“Who wouldn’t want to have a big... 1,000 pounds of love.”